Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a disorder recognized by the American Psychiatric Association and often diagnosed following a return from war or crimes such as rape, repeated abuse or violent assault. Although the American Psychiatric Association has not formally recognized the symptoms of being a victim of identity theft as meeting the standards for a PTSD diagnosis, studies by the Identity Theft Recovery Center, the first organization to study the emotional impact of identity theft on victims, shows that victims of identity theft suffer from symptoms similar to PTSD.
ID theft crimes often cost victims up to an average of $1,884.00 of out of pocket expenses and require up to 97 hours to resolve when they are involving existing accounts and up to 231 hours to resolve involving new accounts. In addition to the time and financial consequences, the ITRC studies also show that this crime has a tremendous emotional impact on victims.
Although there are no "life-limb threatening" events in the crime of id theft, Dr. Charles Nelson, a psychologist who specializes in crime victims, finds that many victims of identity theft "come very close to suffering the criteria set aside for the assessment of PTSD," and that it "leaves similar scars and long-term impact as demonstrated by victims of violent crime."
Symptoms of Identity Theft Victims - Studies have shown that victims can feel:
Too tired to fight
Strain in their relationships with significant others
Unprotected by police or laws
Deep fears for personal financial security
Victims also expressed that they felt "dirty, defiled, guilty, ashamed, embarrassed, an outcast, undeserving of assistance or having brought this crime upon myself."
Many victims reported sleep disturbances, stressed family life and some reported that their children were being affected as well.
Identity theft is also not a crime that allows victims to quickly get back to their normal loves. Fifty nine percent of victims say that it took up to a year to clear up the consequences of identity theft, fourteen percent report that it took up to two years and twenty-nine percent report that it took more than two years and in extreme cases up to eight years.
When the perpetrator of this crime is a family member the emotional impact appears to be confounded. Dr. Nelson explains that this "conflict is classic" and resembles the challenges felt by those who are physically or repeatedly abused by family members as the victim is in a "self preservation vs. pleasing family members who take the side of the perpetrator." Many victims of crimes like this perpetrated by family members felt that family were unsupportive and were often torn regarding filing charges. Dr. Nelson feels that therapy is indicated in most of these cases.